The phrase "dog days of summer" conjures up a powerful and nostalgic image: It evokes those long, sweltering, shapeless days that make up the hottest months of the year. Derived from the ancient belief that the star Sirius (aka the "dog star") was responsible for this period of extreme heat, the phrase has become synonymous with languid, hazy days when time seems to somehow slow.
In literature, the dog days often serve as a backdrop for stories of transformation, resilience, and romance. In poetry, writers wield vivid sensorial imagery to capture the essence of the season: shimmering water, parched landscapes, tired bodies seeking refuge in the shade. The air feels thicker; we can almost hear the cicadas.
Poets from Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost have captured the quintessential feelings of those dog days of summer — restlessness, wistfulness, and even a touch of melancholy. Find a sliver of shade and relish in the late-summer haze while reading these quotes.
A something in a summer’s noon — / A depth — an Azure — a perfume — / Transcending ecstasy.Emily Dickinson, “A something in a summer’s Day”
Summer specializes in time, slows it down almost to dream.Jennifer Grotz, “Late Summer”
I woo the wind / That still delays his coming. Why so slow, / Gentle and voluble spirit of the air? / Oh, come and breathe upon the fainting earth / Coolness and life!William Cullen Bryant, “Summer Wind”
The cicada’s dry monotony breaks / over me. The days are bright / and free, bright and free.Jane Kenyon, “Three Songs at the End of Summer”
Where the water / Gives me back in a shining surface picture / Me myself in the summer heaven godlike / Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.Robert Frost, “For Once, Then, Something”
Like heat lightning behind a bank of clouds / One summer night at the edge of the world.Mark Bibbins, “And You Thought You Were the Only One”
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down / into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, / how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, / which is what I have been doing all day.Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, / The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”
We lack not songs, nor instruments of joy, / Nor echoes sweet, nor waters clear as heaven, / Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat.William Blake, “To Summer”
Warm summer sun, / Shine kindly here, / Warm southern wind, / Blow softly here.Mark Twain, “Warm Summer Sun”
There from their hearts the dogdayed pulse / Of love and light bursts in their throats. / O see the pulse of summer in the ice.Dylan Thomas, “I see the boys of summer”
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor, / Spiritual, airy insects, humming on gossamer wings, / Shimmer of waters, with fish in them—the cerulean above.Walt Whitman, “Warble for Lilac-Time”
Meanwhile August moved toward its impervious finale. / A mood by the river. Gone. One lucid rush carrying them along. / Borderless and open the days go onDeborah Laudau, “September”
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